Topkapi Palace, one of world’s richest museums, can be considered as the best and the most visited sights in Istanbul together with the neighboring Hagia Sophia. Situated on a triangular promontory dominating the Bosphorus and Golden Horn, it is a magnificent oriental palace and one of the world’s greatest architectural works.
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Topkapi Palace Facts
Istanbul’s, as well as the World’s one of most visited sights. So what it stands for?
- Built between the years of 1460-1478.
- Once a residence of the Ottoman Sultans.
- One of world’s richest museums.
- Houses the finest samples of seal, book binding, jewelry and box craftsmanship as well as inscriptions.
- Houses the finest collection of Chinese porcelain in the world.
- Converted to a museum in 1924.
History of Topkapi Palace
Topkapi Palace was the residence of the Ottoman sultans as well as the administrative and educational center of the Empire. The palace was constructed atop the Byzantine acropolis on Sarayburnu at the tip of the historical peninsula, between the years of 1460-1478 with the order of Fatih Sultan Mehmed, conquest of Istanbul in 1453.
Topkapi Palace continued to be the residence of the Ottoman sultans for about 350 years, until the early 1850s. As the palace has become very inadequate to the needs such as ceremonies and protocol, sultans moved to the Dolmabahce Palace, which is situated in Besiktas, Bosphorus shores.
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But despite the move, the many collections such as the royal treasure, the Holy Relics of the Prophet Muhammad and the imperial archives continued to be preserved at the Topkapi Palace. In the year of 1924, as the Republic of Turkey established, Topkapi Palace was converted into a museum with the order of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk.
What to See at Topkapi Palace?
Covering an area of about 700,000 m2, the palace is surrounded by the Marmara Sea, the Bosphorus and the Golden Horn. And on the land, it is surrounded by a 1,400-meters city walls known as the “Royal Walls” and with the Byzantine walls on the side facing the sea.
Topkapi Palace complex has a giant design and consists of three main gates that include the Imperial Gate (Bâb-ı Hümâyûn), the Gate of Salutation (Bâbüsselâm) and the Gate of Felicity (Bâbüssaâde), four courtyards, the Harem, the Royal Gardens (also known as Rose Garden (Gülbahçe) and several other gardens.
Topkapi Palace houses the finest samples of seal, book binding, jewelry and box craftsmanship as well as inscriptions. The former imperial kitchen houses the finest collection of Chinese porcelain in the world.
The Sultans’ costumes also exhibited there. The Treasury has a breathtaking and excellent collection of jewels such as emeralds, rubies and diamonds adorn turban crests, swords, golden thrones embroidered with seed pearls.
The Baghdad Pavilion, decorated with beautiful blue tiles, houses a sanctuary containing relics of the Prophet Mohammed, as well as exhibitions of paintings and manuscripts.
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And than comes the world famous Harem, the private part of the palace where the wives and concubines of the sultans were lived.
Also the famous Hagia Irene Church, now a museum and a center cultural activities and exhibitions, is located at the first court of the palace. Like Harem, you need to buy separate ticket to visit Hagia Irene.
Topkapi Palace Collections
* Arms and Weapons – part of the private collection of Topkapi Palace; the finest samples of craftsmanship and ornamentation of The Ottomans; weaponry owned by Sultan Mehmed II, Bayezid II, Selim the Grim, Suleiman the Magnificent, Selim II, Mehmed II, and Ahmed I and more.
* Chinese and Japanese Porcelains – one of the finest collection of Chinese porcelains in the world, together with Japanese Porcelains are exhibited at the Imperial Kitchens.
* Copper and Goldplate Copper Kitchen Utensils – Copper works are an important part of the kitchenware of the Topkapi Palace; exhibited at the Confectionery House.
* European Porcelains and Glasses – about 5,000 pieces of porcelain ware from various countries in Europe.
* Imperial Treasury – Kasikci (Spoon-maker) Diamond, Topkapi Dagger, Jewelled pendants and plumes, treasury weapons, thrones and gifts for Sultans.
* Istanbul Glassware and Porcelain – about 2,000 pieces of porcelain.
* Pavilion of the Holy Mantle and Holy Relics – holy relics, Holy Mantle of the Prophet Muhammad, the hair from the Prophet Muhammad’s beard, the tray used by Abraham;, the staff of Moses, the sword of David, the robe of Joseph, the swords of the Prophet Muhammad’s companions exhibited at the Privy Room (Has Oda).
* Portraits of Sultans and Paintings – variety of very valuable portraits of 36 different ruling sultans beginning with the foundation of the Ottoman state.
* Silverware – rich collection of about 2,000 works of silverware made up of works from the 16th to the 19th centuries
* Sultan Caftans, Fabrics, Carpets and Sacred Coverings – collection of sultans’ clothing; finest examples of Ottoman textile art.
The Harem is a whole different world where the wives and concubines of the sultans were lived. It was the world of love, intrigue and jealousy and has an important value on the administration of the Empire.
The Privy Chamber of Murad III, decorated with blue and red tiles is one of the most beautiful rooms of the Harem that worth a visit and see, as well as the dome with outstanding classical patterns, a built-in marble fountain with three levels, and the best examples of wooden doors. Note that you need to buy separate ticket to visit Harem.
Visiting Topkapi Palace Tips
Visiting Topkapi Palace without buying tickets before and try to buy at the ticket window on location means waiting in the long lines.
You can wait about 2 hours that is crowd dependent to get an entry ticket, so getting there at 09:30 am could mean a 11:30 am entrance.
So, we highly recommend you buy your Topkapi Palace tickets online.
Some insider advice
* Buy your tickets well in advance to avoid the time slots that can tend to sell out even in low season.
* Buying guided tours is recommended because Topkapi Palace has a history coming from 1460s, better to know the each detail and story, and have a detailed look at the story of the museum, and you’ll have a detailed look at the rooms, gardens, galleries, collections and the decoration from the past and today.
* Harem section of Topkapi Palace and Hagia Irene Museum (formely church, inside the 1st courtyard) is visited via separate tickets.
* The palace has four courts, you are free to enter the first court, and there you’ll find a beautiful garden with very old huge trees, the museum souvenir shop and cafe and ticket window. See the Topkapi Palace Plan Map.
* Book your tickets for 09:30 or 15:30, to avoid crowds.
* Plan at least 90 minutes for the visit.
* Keep an eye out for unofficial guides (guides should have official badge on).
* Don’t pay attention, look in the eyes, and talk with beggars, and people coming beside and ask for helping with guidance around or for money.
* Avoid weekends if possible, it can be more crowded with the locals’ visits.
* Try one of the four quality restaurants for lunch situated inside the palace, overlooking the Bosphorus entrance with good views.
* Check the weather forecast and plan your day for the sunniest one if possible.
Visiting Hours & Admissions
Open every day except Tuesdays between 09:00-18:00.
Closed on Tuesdays
Please check hours and admissions from millisaraylar.gov.tr
What Are The Best Hagia Sophia Guided Tours?
Guided tours enrich your visit to the Topkapi Palace Museum by providing expert insights and fascinating stories about this historical wonder. Here are some popular guided tour options:
- Historical Tour: Learn about the construction, transformations, and historical context of Hagia Sophia from a knowledgeable historian.
- Skip-the-Line Tour: Get exclusive priority access and avoid the hassle of waiting in long queues.
- Combined Tours: These include a visit to the Hagia Sophia, along with other notable landmarks such as the Blue Mosque, Hagia Sophia, and Basilica Cistern.
- Topkapi Palace Museum is partly wheelchair accessible. However, there is no wheelchair service available on the site. You need to provide your own wheelchair if needed.
- There are some sections and halls that are not accessible for the disabled visitors to enter and pass with wheelchairs. It is because there are steps, as well as you’ll need to pass over elevated marble slabs. Improvements is not possible to due the sight’s being cultural asset.
- Wheelchair accessible sections include; Arms and Weapons, Clock Collections, Courtyards, Sultan Caftans, Fabrics, Carpets and Sacred Coverings, Imperial Treasury, Pavilion of the Holy Mantle and Holy Relics, Harem
- You can find toilet available for disabled use, on the entrance of the 2nd courtyard, on the right.
- The visiting area is designed to be accessible by wheelchair.
- Entrance is FREE of charge for disabled visitors, including one companion.
Where to Buy Topkapi Palace Tickets
You can buy them at ticket windows but it will cost you about at least 1 to 2 hours waiting in the line. And this will effect your future sightseeing calendar.
We recommend you buy your tickets online. This is by far the easiest and cheapest way to get tickets to Topkapi Palace.
We put the links to the official buying channels below. Just pick your date and time and skip the lines.
Topkapi Palace Ticket Options and Prices
There are several options:
- Buy directly at the ticket window on location.
- Buy Topkapi Palace only guided tours.
- Buy Topkapi Palace included combo tickets.
- Buy one of Topkapi Palace included Istanbul discount passes.
Topkapi Palace is a giant complex and you’ll need about at least 1,5 to 2 hours to have a complete tour.
We recommend you to book the Topkapi Palace tickets for 09:30 and 15:30, as it will be less crowded and you can make the most of the Topkapi Palace even better.
General Admission Tickets
The general admission tickets will let you enter the museum and explore on your own. You should know that there is very little explanation of the architecture by signs, plates, etc. If you just want to have quick look inside without need of understand the history behind, and waiting in the queue is not a problem, this is the ticket for you.
The skip the line access tickets with a guide (see below) seems to be some expensive. You should consider on your own would it worth to pay that amount to save yourself from 1 to 2 hours waiting in the line, and have a guide. We guess it would!
This is the best option we recommend especially for first time visitors. And we always recommend opting for an extended English guided tour offered exclusively by several historian guides of Istanbul.
When you book you’ll get an email confirmation with meeting details (in front of the Fountain of Sultan Selim III, just by the Imperial Gate of the Topkapi Palace) and there your name being checked from the official guide’s list with your confirmation number.
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How to Get to Topkapi Palace?
The most practical way to get to Sultanahmet is via Bagcilar-Kabatas tram (T1 line).
- The closest tram stop is Sultanahmet.
- Sultanahmet Square and most of the connecting roads are closed for vehicle traffic except tram and tour buses.
- From Taksim, take the funicular to Kabatas (from taksim Square) or funicular to Karakoy (from Tunel square) and than take the tram.
- If you stay at the Sultanahmet hotels, than you easily walk to the museum.
Check our Sultanahmet page to see how to get to Sultanahmet in details.
Address: Sultanahmet, Fatih, Istanbul
Tel: +90 212 512 04 80